Striking teachers urge government to ‘start investing in education’ during NUT protest in Ipswich town centre
Dozens of teachers staged a protest in Ipswich town centre today in support of a national one-day strike against funding and education standards.
Many schools across the country were forced to close as teachers walked out and joined rallies and marches organised by the National Union of Teachers (NUT).
The NUT claims funding to schools is being cut, leading to increased workloads for teachers, bigger class sizes and threatening creative subjects such as drama and performing arts.
Margaret Bulaitis, secretary of Ipswich NUT, said: “We are striking because education is in crisis and we want the government to stand up and listen and start investing in education.
“There are teachers leaving, teachers teaching in huge classrooms, there are many children being taught by unqualified teachers, so teachers want to say, ‘enough is enough, something needs to be done’.
“We have been talking to parents and the support has been phenomenal. They know that education is in crisis and their children are suffering.”
Ms Bulaitis said this strike had been “very popular” and had attracted 6,000 more members of the NUT since Thursday.
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Robert Carmichael, Year 5 teacher at Ixworth Primary School, said one of the reasons he was striking was because working conditions in schools were increasing the pressure. He added: “We are looking for a long-term solution. People don’t understand that we have tried everything else.”
Bryony Smith, Year 5 teacher and NUT representative at Glade Primary School in Brandon, said there had been “huge support” for the strike from parents at her school, two of whom joined Mrs Smith on today’s protest with their children.
She added: “We are striking against making our children feel like failures from a very young age and making grades too unattainable.
“It’s too important not to. The future of our children depends on us getting this right.”
Paul Rea, sports teacher at Suffolk One sixth form in Ipswich, said: “In my opinion and what I see day to day is education standards haven’t risen; what has risen is the production line of outcomes.
“The qualifications they get do raise opportunities, but qualifications alone do not give them the skills they need for life; it simply gives them a badge and it’s the most narrow view of educational standards.”
Teresa Mackay, of Ipswich and District Trades Unions Council, said this was the right time in politics to put pressure on the government to make changes.
“Subjects like drama are being pushed aside and drama is so important,” she said. “We really need to get the message across that that’s where our children become creative.
“The core subjects are really important but we need to have a bit more variety in terms of education.
“Your [teachers’] terrible workload has increased phenomenally. So many good teachers are having to leave education because they just can’t stand it, and that is such a waste of talent. We are in desperate need of teachers and they are having to walk away because of the terrible conditions that exist now.
“We need to fight against cuts that threaten all education opportunities. We need an education system that benefits all children, not just a few.”
Amy Aylett, parent and drama teacher at East Bergholt High School, said: “There’s nothing that will defend drama, dance and performing arts unless we point out to the powers that be that these are fundamental parts of education.”
Graham White, secretary of the Suffolk NUT, said it would be taking further strike action unless the government was prepared to change its attitude towards education.
Members of Suffolk’s NUT are due to present Ipswich MP Ben Gummer with a petition on Friday asking him to put pressure on government to start investing in education.